Where Worship Leads
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over... If only you would listen to his voice today! “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness."
Where does worship lead? When we gather together as the people of God to offer praise, thanks, and worship to our Lord, where does this take us? What happens in us and to us because we worship?
If you were to ask these questions of a hundred different Christians, I expect you might hear a hundred different answers. For some, worship leads to feelings of joy, love, and peace. For others, worship may very well lead to feelings of boredom or sadness. For still others, worship may have nothing to do with feelings. It might encourage them to think more deeply or to act more faithfully.
Psalm 95 answers the "Where does worship lead?" question in a startling way. It begins with an extended call to worship: "Come, let us sing to the LORD! . . . Let us come to him with thanksgiving . . . Come, let us worship and bow down" (95:1, 3, 6). Then, verses 6 and 7 explain why we worship. The Lord is "our maker" and "our God" (95:6). "We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care" (95:7).
Now, at this point, if you hadn't already read Psalm 95, you might expect an expression of thanksgiving for God's shepherding care for us, something like: "Give thanks to the Lord, our shepherd, for he tenderly cares for us." But that's not what we find in the psalm. Rather, there's a sharp change in direction, a wish prayer that seems almost like an admonishment: "If only you would listen to his voice today!" (95:7). Doesn't this suggest that we are not listening to God's voice?
Then, unexpectedly, the Lord speaks: "Don't harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah . . . " (95:8). They tried God's patience and for forty years he "was angry with them" (95:10). Why? Because "They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them" (95:10).
According to Psalm 95, more accurately, according to the Lord who speaks in Psalm 95, worship should lead to listening to God's voice with open ears and ready hearts, so that we might do what God asks of us. Worship leads to attentiveness to the Lord's commands. It leads to receptive hearts and obedient lives.
So, when the worship of your church concludes this Sunday, how will you respond? Will you critique the sermon or the music? Will you focus on how you feel or how you don't feel? Or will you pay attention to whatever God is saying to you, so that you might hear, receive, and obey?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you tend to respond to your experiences of worship? Why do you think we are so apt to sit in the seat of a critic? What helps you to hear God's "voice" in worship?
PRAYER: Gracious God, what a joy to offer you thanks and praise. You are indeed a great God, the only creator of all things.
What a privilege to offer you myself in worship, to bow before you as my King. Yet, not only are you my sovereign, but also my good shepherd. You watch over your people with tender care. Thank you!
May my worship lead me to attend to your voice, that I might obey you. May my worship soften my heart so that I might desire you and honor you. Help me, Lord, to worship you so that I give you all of myself, not just in the gathering of your people, but all the time and everywhere. Amen.
The Work of Play
Play is not just for kids. If you are under pressure in your work, a spirit of play can lead to balance, creativity, and good health. In our hyper-productive world, we need to learn how to play again—at home, on the job, and even in worship. This article is part of our series The Work of Play. If someone you know needs to rediscover the joy of play, invite them to the conversation on The High Calling.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.